Column: Religion’s problem with sex

Columnist Hunter Bassler on the condoning and condemning of sex in religion.

Human beings love sex. Since the dawn of man, humans have enjoyed doing it. Whether it be to reduce stress, satisfy urges, maintain a relationship, create a small clone of ourselves or an act of love, sex has always been an integral part of human society. However, as we evolved and developed conscious thought and the ability to reason, we began to set sexual norms. The standards of sexual conduct arose when we began to question the morality of sex itself. The reason for this questioning can be linked clearly and directly to religious beliefs and traditions.

Some religions view sex as an act only to be done with your soulmate or never to be done at all. Traits such as celibacy, virginity and abstinence until marriage are highly praised by many religious doctrines. Religions such as Christianity, the Bahá'í faith, and Buddhism see fornication as a crime against purity and chastity. While they all approve sex within marriage, these denominations see any type of sexual act, including masturbation, outside of this union as merely buckling under animal impulses and seduction. However, I view this religious damnation of sex as a larger and more interesting issue. The purpose of this restriction is not so people won’t give into temptation, but so they will not gain self-determination.

In 2006, U.S. sex therapist and marriage counselor Dr. Marty Klein wrote a book called America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty. In it he stated that "Sexuality is religion's worst nightmare because it offers the possibility of personal autonomy. Anyone can be sexual – rich or poor, old or young, tall or short, educated or not. Religion attempts to seize sex as its own domain, claiming a monopoly or morality which primarily is about limiting sexual expression (rather than ethical or rational decision-making).”

Klein, and I, believe that some religions are censoring the information people consume. By telling teenagers that they are going to hell for premarital sex or not allowing the use of contraception, these religions successfully make people, especially teenagers, feel even more confused and vulnerable that they have felt before. The celibacy movement mentions that condoms are often unreliable and asks teens pledge to stay a virgin, which does nothing but promote sexual ignorance.

While there are these religions that outlaw fornication, there are some that see sex as a divine practice and promote it. In Hinduism, once Hindus reach the householder, or Grihastha, stage in life, they are permitted to seek physical pleasure, or kama. One of the best examples of Hinduism’s standing on sex is the Kama Sutra, a manual for “proper” sex. The manual offers insight into the moral and ethical ways to perform sex. Beliefs such as occultism and Neo-Paganism see sex as a link to the divine and have developed religious rituals from it.

Obstructing sexual education and suppressing people’s sexual urges will only cause more harm than good. From the development of vaginismus, a condition in which women physically cannot have sex due to anxiety, to the refusal of condoms in Africa leading to the AIDS epidemic, sex is an important topic that cannot be undermined and must be taught.

How can anyone morally claim that, while AIDS might be bad, condoms are still worse? The clerical campaign against contraception in the developing world has caused millions of innocent deaths, all in the name of religions that claim to have a monopoly over people’s reproductive systems.

If you, or anyone you know, happen to be feeling guilt because they believe God condones their sexual activities, I advise you to dive deeper into religious thought. I don’t believe God would have created men and women with sexual organs that can give them pleasure just to punish those who use it for anything other than procreation.

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